20 Questions: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?Posted by dnspewak on October 24th, 2011
Question: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?
The pick: Maui Invitational
Participants (with preseason rank): Island: Duke (#6), Memphis (#9), Kansas (#13), Michigan (#18), UCLA (#20), Tennessee, Georgetown, Chaminade; Regional: Belmont, Middle Tennessee, UNC Greensboro, Towson
The theme at the Maui Invitational this fall is history. Sure, it’s impressive that the field includes five teams ranked in the preseason Top 20 in the Coaches’ Poll, but the bracket will also provide us with all kinds of wonderful nostalgia. On one side of the bracket, Duke and Michigan might play a rematch of the 1992 National Championship in the semifinals; or, Memphis and Tennessee could battle for in-state supremacy once again (except the game is, you know, in Hawaii). The possibilities are endless — and that’s the case on the other side too. The winner of Georgetown/Kansas will likely face UCLA, and those three programs have 15 combined NCAA titles. And hey, if Memphis and Kansas keep winning, they could meet in a rematch of the 2008 title game. Mario Chalmers won’t be allowed in the building this time.
At this point, you may be physically shaking at some of these matchups. We don’t blame you. That’s how enticing these games are: they’ve got historical value, star power, legendary coaches and terrific fan bases. And you think that’s all the 2011 Maui Invitational has to offer? Take a look at the regional rounds, which also includes Belmont, widely considered one of the top non-BCS programs this season with the majority of an NCAA Tournament team returning. The Bruins dominated the Atlantic Sun in 2010-11, and it’ll face Duke in the regional round of this tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The result of the game won’t determine who flies to Hawaii — Duke will automatically advance — but the Bruins are likely to put a scare into the Blue Devils (2008 NCAA tourney, anybody?).
Mike Krzyzewski’s team is the favorite here, but every team on the island has its fair share of question marks. Duke needs to figure out how to play with all of its new faces in the backcourt, for example. Memphis is still a young squad with a lot to prove; Michigan doesn’t have Darius Morris anymore, UCLA needs Jerime Anderson to return strong from a suspension and Kansas has only a couple of key contributors returning. Tennessee and Georgetown are also dealing with significant roster turnover.
Don’t mistake those question marks for shoddy basketball, though. The national championships, McDonald’s All-Americans and lofty preseason rankings more than make up for those potential team-by-team concerns. Just consider the boatload of individual talent in this tournament for a moment. Freshmen Austin Rivers (Duke) and Adonis Thomas (Memphis) will showcase their skills to a national audience. Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith (UCLA) could put on quite a show in the frontcourt, and we’ll be watching the development of Memphis’s sophomores and incumbent superstar Thomas Robinson at Kansas.
So again, gun to our heads, we’re taking the Duke Blue Devils to cut down the proverbial nets at Maui. November tournaments are entirely unpredictable, though. Remember the last Maui Invitational? Kemba Walker and unranked Connecticut took the nation by storm en route to a title in the islands followed by a National Championship. It’ll be difficult for the 2011 Maui tourney to live up to that surprising finish, but with all of this star power, it certainly has a chance.